CANADA CODEL Oh, Canada. A bipartisan group of senators headed north to Nova Scotia this weekend to attend the annual Halifax International Security Forum, where they found themselves dogged by some of the same pressure points as on Capitol Hill.

Predictably, Russia and China dominated this years conference but legislators from the United States often found themselves on the defensive, including as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol drew concern from others at the confab. The senators made news on a few of the major topics dominating Capitol Hill during this year-end crunch time, and Andrew sent along his top takeaways from the three-day forum

Homemade Blockade: Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, strongly pushed back against the Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley-led blockade of diplomatic nominations, which is currently holding up more than 50 of Bidens foreign-policy nominees, including a slew of ambassadors. I have been a critic of this since I started on the committee, Risch said. He added that as a former governor, he understands that you need to have a team in place in order to govern. Rischs comments were his most forceful to date on the backlog of nominees. If your criticism is, we need more ambassadors out there, I couldnt agree with you more, he said. The senators said their foreign counterparts, too, were concerned about the dearth of Senate-confirmed ambassadors. Read the story here

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NDAA Anxiety: Senators told Andrew they were hearing concerns from U.S. allies about Congress ability to pass the annual defense policy bill before the end of this year. Its unusual for their foreign counterparts to openly worry about whether the NDAA can pass, especially with the six-decade track record of getting it done.

But this year is different. With so many issues unresolved, theyre worried they might not have clarity on the U.S. posture toward a host of pressing national-security matters. Dont mess up the one thing you can count on the Senate to do in a bipartisan way every year, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said. A Senate that cannot do this hardly deserves the title. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) went even further, saying there are consequences for our security and our standing in the world if Congress cant pass a defense bill and an appropriations package to fund it. More on NDAA anxieties from the senators and the international community.

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So, whats the bottom line? Yes, Russias and Chinas malign behavior dominated the discussions; but some of the harshest critiques in Halifax were directed toward the U.S. in what sometimes seemed like a therapy session. The U.S. took heat on several topics Afghanistan, Jan. 6, and the paralysis on Capitol Hill over the defense bill and diplomatic nominations and foreign counterparts expressed fears about the state of American democracy and doubts about Washingtons will to counter Moscow and Beijing.

The forum was less of a celebration of Bidens agenda and his vow that America is back, and more of a global intervention for a nation in crisis. Kaine summed it up this way: I do feel like theres no ground for cockiness. Sometimes a bit of humility actually enables you to make better connections with other nations because were not really in a position to lecture. He also said the U.S. immune system the countrys ability to respond to strains on our democracy is faltering, and thats worrying our allies. And Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said there was an acknowledgement that the U.S. has let our partners down in a number of aspects. A full recap of the conference from the POLITICO team is here

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GOOD MORNING!Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Monday, November 22, where I want to know if you ordered a Turkey Day pie from Dirksen.

NOTE: Huddle will be off for Thanksgiving this Thursday and Friday but back in your inboxes, grateful as ever, on Monday, Nov. 29.

PICTURING THE PILE OF CASH Remember waiting for the Congressional Budget Office score last week? Ah, what fun. Well, now that CBO has tallied up the costs for the Democrats’ social spending bill passed by the House, with spending on the social safety net and early childhood education comprising the largest sections of the bills $1.7 trillion of direct spending. Patterson Clark, senior graphics editor for for POLITICO Pro, has a visual of the bills two biggest titles:

Patterson Clark/POLITICO

FRESH FROM VERMONT Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) made it official this morning: he’s running for Senate to succeed Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who announced his retirement last week. The campaign launch video is here

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Helping prevent youth access. Kids shouldnt use any tobacco products. While underage use of traditional tobacco products is at historic lows, more must be done to address underage vaping. Thats why Altria strongly supported legislation to raise the minimum age for all tobacco products to 21. See how were moving.

A STUDY IN CONTRASTS The House last week took swift action against one of their own, punishing Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) within days of his violent social media post. In contrast, it has been 10 months since seven Democrats asked for an inquiry into two Republican senators who led objections to certifying the 2020 election. Sens. Hawley (R-Mo.) and Cruz (R-Texas) havent been contacted by the Senate Ethics panel, which highlights the molasses pace of the inquiry, if it is happening at all. Burgess looks at the divergent paths that each chamber takes to punish its members: Senate’s Jan. 6 ethics probe into Cruz, Hawley drags on

SUNDAY SCHUMERThe Senate Majority Leader focused his Sunday press conference in New York on one provision in the massive House-passed social spending bill: a cap of $35 per month for the cost of insulin for patients with diabetes. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he expects challenges on the provision, “there are different ways, the parliamentarian and other ways the Republicans could try to knock it out,” he said Sunday.

He acknowledged the challenges ahead to make changes to the bill that will bring the two centrist Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on board. “The House did a very strong bill. Everyone knows that Manchin and Sinema have their concerns, but we’re going to try to negotiate with them and get a very strong, bold bill out of the Senate which will then go back to the House and pass,” said Schumer.

GREETINGS FROM THE AIRPORT Wishing Huddle readers safe and smooth travel over the holiday, but delays and cancellations are already piling up. And some powerful frequent fliers on Capitol Hill have questions. Congress is demanding answers about why airlines have been so unprepared for the inevitable upswing in passenger demand, a question with big implications for the holiday travel season that kicks off this weekend, writes POLITICOs Oriana Pawlyk. More: Congress to airlines: Where did all that Covid money go?

BECOME A GLOBAL INSIDER: The world is more connected than ever. It has never been more essential to identify, unpack and analyze important news, trends and decisions shaping our future and weve got you covered! Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Global Insider author Ryan Heath navigates the global news maze and connects you to power players and events changing our world. Dont miss out on this influential global community. Subscribe now.

RETIREMENT WATCHThe latest lawmaker to announce they wont seek reelection in 2022 is Texas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the dean of the Texas delegation and chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

“I will retire, and let me assure that I will also recommend to you whom I feel is the best to follow me,” Johnson said during an event in Dallas, reported by The Texas Tribune

. Johnson added she is looking for a “female that is qualified.”

QUICK LINKS

As a coal plant fights for life, it could enrich Manchin

, from Scott Waldman

Fueled by Trump-inspired grievance, attempts to terrorize public officials escalate

, from NBC

With Back Channels to Manchin and Sinema, Pelosi Found a Path to a Deal

, by Carl Hulse at the New York Times

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AROUND THE HILL

Quiet to start Thanksgiving week.

TRIVIA

FRIDAYS WINNER:Jill Burke correctly answered that freedom fries hit the menu in the House cafeterias in 2003, as part of a Republican protest against Frances opposition to the war on Iraq.

TODAYS QUESTION: Who was the first cabinet nominee rejected by the Senate?

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A message from Altria:

Kids shouldnt use any tobacco products. Today, underage use of traditional tobacco products is at historic and generational lows, but more must be done to address underage vaping rates.

Raising legal age restricts access. In addition to our longstanding efforts to keep tobacco out of kids hands, we strongly supported legislation to raise the minimum age of purchase for all tobacco products to 21, nationwide. And we are offering retailers incentives for using age verification technology that can make sure retail remains a trusted place to responsibly sell tobacco products.

Continuing our commitment to responsibility. Operating responsibly is our number one priority. We are committed to continue our work with multiple stakeholders to drive down underage use and maintain the opportunity in potential harm reduction that non-combustible tobacco products hold for adult smokers 21+.

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